-Chapter Forty One Part III-
'Ramona, come closer,
Shut softly your watery eyes.
The pangs of your sadness,
Will pass as your senses will rise.
The flowers of the city,
Though breath-like, get deathlike at times.
And there's no use in trying
To deal with the dying
Though I cannot explain that in lines...'
The ending of a thing is impossible to design, truly it is. In any instance, searching for a way to end anything properly and with justice is complicated and often futile. There is never really a good way to end a relationship, for example. No matter the kindness that may be involved, there will always be things left unsaid, issues left unresolved. As I struggled with the dilemma before me, I was filled with the strange desire to leave it unfinished; perhaps to return to it whenever I wanted, like a lover one could not quite let go of. Like a friend we know we should cease to associate with, but the comfort borne of familiarity is powerful enough that we stay anyway. This book had become more to me than extravagant diary entries; more than exaggerated (and sometimes under-exaggerated) events and occurrences in the lives of people I knew and loved. It had become something entirely it's own, much like those I had struggled to depict. Much like the story I hoped I had told faithfully.
Ending it now, after so long a time writing it in secret, felt like saying goodbye to a friend; leaving behind a tempestuous lover. I had little idea of exactly how to end it and trying to sum everything in a manner of significance and symmetry seemed more daunting now than it had when I had initially struggled with the idea of writing down that which existed between Rosalie Hale and Edward Cullen.
Should it, for example, have ended with their resolve to never again fall prey to the connection between them? The private agreement between them that now, with the birth of Edward's child, the madness had to come to an end? I seemed to be torn between my desire to write a happy ending, one that involved Edward and Rosalie conquering the demons of their passion, but unfortunately, I could not shake the idea that a more truthful and realistic ending had to be considered.
With annoyance, I threw the pen aside where it impacted disappointingly on the floor, glaring up at me with satisfaction. I glared back and wondered, for the thousandth time, why on earth I was doing this? Why I was bothering to write this stupid book that nobody was ever going to buy in a million years, let alone publish simply due to the fact that it was yet another torrid vampire love story.
And yet, I knew I would carry on. I had endured this frustration and such doubting questions many times over the last few years and I would finish that God-damned book if it killed me, whether only one person in the world bought it; it would be worth it. What else could I do with one of the greatest stories I had ever encountered in my life? I could not bear witness to so much and not share it with anyone, I simply could not.
No, I had spent too much time with it now. It was almost finished. It had to be finished, or else I would go on writing it forever. This was my problem. How was I supposed to finish a story that, well...wasn't finished?
I supposed inspiration would come to me at some point, it usually did. There was just too much all around me to ignore, too much happening, too much going on between the lines. Even then, as my family celebrated the albeit rather anti-climatic victory over the Volturi and their meddling devices, there were scenes unfolding unseen by many, but more apparent to those who knew where to look for absent spaces and missing bodies.
Music blared, cheers, laughter and animated chatter filled the beautiful room. So many of our kind all together, dancing and hugging and smiling brightly. So much fuss being made over the undeniably adorable, yet questionably named, Nessie. She giggled and smiled while her mother held her tight and refused to let go of her hand, even once. She had woken a while ago, most likely due to sheer volume of sound. Originally, everyone had begun to drift away back to their lives after a few bracing back slaps and congratulatory smiles. Now that the battle, if it could be called that, was done, no one really knew what to do. It was Esme who had put her foot down and insisted that everyone stay and that we throw a party. Even I had marvelled at the speed with which she created the impressive celebrations. Alice, of course, had been desperate to help. It was wonderful to be back after so long away, searching endlessly all the while trying to work through our own issues. It had been a difficult journey to say the least, but we had accomplished it together and that, in itself, was worth celebrating.
My eyes found her without even trying and I saw she was dancing with Charlie who looked awkward and gruff. I smiled and shook my head; an odd sight indeed. Our simple house, where so much had transpired, was transformed into what easily could have been the celebration of the decade. Everyone was there, all except two people. It always amazed me how no-one but myself ever noticed things like this. Maybe they were blessed by some pitying deity who lent them cover of darkness to slink away, even in the midst of such a family orientated celebration. But then I supposed, they were family. They were everything. Who better to celebrate with?
And it was then, pondering the difficulties of endings that I saw my Alice, chiming her crystal bell laugh across the room, her eyes sparkling as I had not seen them in so long. I decided there and then that as soon as this party was over, I would take her into the yard, get down on one knee and ask her to marry me for the very first time.
'...Your cracked country lips
I still wish to kiss
As to be by the strength of you skin.
Your magnetic movements
Still capture the minutes I'm in.
But it grieves my heart, love,
To see you trying to be a part of
A world that just don't exist.
It's all just a dream, babe,
A vacuum, a scheme, babe,
That sucks you into feeling like this...'
It had taken me seventy one years to take a two day drive and stand, hand in hand with my wife, in a place I could never bear to visit before then. Until then, I hadn't laid eyes on the brightly lit alleyway in Andrews Street, Rochester. I stared at what was newly laid cement, wondering how long ago it had been relaid and if the people who did so knew the significance of that area, of that place on the ground. Of what had been lost that night before I even knew my soul mate, my wife. I felt cold, but Rosalie's hand was warm in mine and not gripping tightly enough that I felt I had to worry about her so much. This journey was more for my benefit than anything else. An attempt for her to share with me something she previously could not. Bridging gaps, she had called it when she suggested it the morning after the celebration. Now here we were, standing at the very place, she had informed me, where it had happened. Where her life had taken a swift and unexpected turn for the worst, towards death and ruin.
I could never have gone there before, I knew that much. It was taking a lot to hold me together as it was, just to see even the town where this had occurred. To know that she lived near there, to know that she had once been alive and warm and fragile until that...that man had destroyed her. This was why Edward had used to take her in lieu of myself. Something about that fact was niggling away in the back of my mind, with an after taste of deja vu. I shook it away.
It was important that I had finally made the trip, because that would always be a part of Rosalie. Always be a small, healed but badly scarred part of who she was. Alice would have forgotten it and focused on the future. Esme would have gathered those she loved around her to distract her from it. But Rosalie wasn't like that. Every bad thing that happened to her, she kept with her. Kept it inside her forever; maybe as a kind of trophy to prove she had survived it, maybe to prevent it from ever happening again.
It was raining heavily even as we stood there, hand in hand together staring blindly at the spot, while people moved around us swiftly trying to avoid the downpour. Some threw us confused looks. Neither of us held so much as an umbrella or even a warm jacket but I barely felt the drops as they hit. I glanced over at Rosalie, almost nervously, but she was staring calmly at the same space of ground as I was. There was no real conflict in her eyes, nothing in her countenance that suggested she was about to break down. She seemed a little sad perhaps, but otherwise at peace. Rosalie had accepted many years ago what had taken place before us. This was for me to partake of one of her many shadowy secrets, locked away for decades.
We stood there a while, until something that had been in the back of my throat since I'd first laid eyes on this place, finally came bubbling past my wet lips.
"You loved him didn't you?" I asked quietly.
She tiler her head quizzically. "You mean King?"
"Of course not," I said and looked at her, drenched and stunning as always; perfect even when ruined. "Edward. You loved him didn't you?"
There were no shutters crashing down in her eyes, no shields flying up to the rescue; only that same sadness and acceptance that shook me deeper than any argument or explosive confrontation could have. "I love you, Emmett. More than anything in the entire world."
"But you loved him, didn't you?" I asked with a sad little smile of my own. There was no anger, no jealousy which was shocking. I felt only a belated understanding of something that would have been ridiculously obvious had I taken the trouble to make this trip even once before. "You and Edward were in love."
The rain crashed around us as she moved closer and stared evenly up at me. I held my breath without even knowing.
"I loved him. I did. But I didn't know how to love, I didn't know what to do with it. I made it into something bad and dark so I could understand it and destroy it."
"And...did that work? Did you destroy it?" I asked, hating how young I sounded. I was strong man, afraid of nothing corporeal and yet she could reduce me to a child, frightened and lost.
"I destroyed us both for a while," she said, stroking my cheek gently, maintaining eye contact steadily. "I destroyed a lot until I found you. You rebuilt me and I'll always be yours for that."
I looked away for a moment to the very place that Rosalie had been broken and I wished I had come before that day so I could have understood better. I could not have explained what it was that gave me this sudden understanding, but it was very much real. Something about simply being there made the elements of what had been a murky relationship between siblings suddenly crystal clear.
"Always?" I asked, moving my gaze back to her. "I've never loved anything like I love you. I could never love anything else, Rose. Never. I'll take you any way I can get you. Broken, bitchy and bossy. I'll do anything to keep you, baby you know that."
Maybe they were tears in her eyes or maybe they were raindrops; it was hard to tell.
"I'm yours, baby," she promised with a fervency bordering on prayer. "I could never not be yours."
It felt as though the years of growing distance between us melted away, washed into oblivion by the rain and by our presence in that place. I could see as plain as day now what had been feeding the tension and the silence that had recently infected our marriage. Now that it was out in the open, I couldn't help but feel cleansed with relief. I couldn't bring myself to hate or to blame Edward or Rosalie. I had not existed to them at the time and knowing them both as well as I did, I could only imagine how painful any relationship between them must have been. They were too alike for anything to ever be permanent and if it would have been, it would have destroyed them both. Like chemical elements that should never be combined.
Between the rain and the truth and the place of origin for Rosalie's dark past, I felt as though we were on the verge of something wonderful. We had reached our breaking point and had survived it, had moved on with acceptance. It could have been terrible. We could have let it tear apart the foundations of our marriage and our bond. But forever was a long time to bear a grudge and to keep such heavy secrets.
No, this felt good. Different.
Something a little bit like a fresh start.
'...I can see that your head
Has been twisted and fed,
With worthless foam from the mouth.
I can tell you are torn
Between staying and returning
Back to the South.
You've been fooled into thinking
That the finishing end is at hand.
Yet there's no one to beat you,
No one to defeat you,
Except the thoughts of yourself feeling bad...'
When I had been younger, a mere human child, I had found faith easily in all things. I was a naturally faithful and religious child, pleased to abide by the laws of God and the rules of the bible. It satisfied me to have a set of guidelines and often I would feel a tinge of smug superiority any time my father and I would walk through town and see those women of sin offering their vices for coin and the men who shiftily eyed them up. I felt myself to be above the rest of our townspeople because I was a good person; I was a person of religion and one who followed the bible to the letter. Best of all was the knowledge that I had faith in all things. I hadn't feared death because my faith was that strong that I knew I would be bound for the light and the sky upon which sat a God I had been dutiful and loyal to in all things. I slept soundly through those nights, so long ago.
Then my father had begun ranting. He had seen and heard things in the course of three months that had turned him from a respectable man of the church into someone that the people on the streets sniggered and laughed at when he had gone far away enough that he might not hear them. The whores giggled and the thieves and fiends openly laughed and called him a loony. My faith was shaken then. My father, who in all things I trusted and turned to, was a laughing stock and he didn't seem to care. He spoke openly to anyone who would listen about how he had seen human like monsters rip apart a young girl right in front of his eyes and drink her blood like it was wine. But a lack of understanding from anyone about this drove him into a fierce state of paranoia. He became consumed with the idea that those people on the streets we had once pitied, were now the agents of Satan. The whores were witches and succubi. The thieves were demons and werewolves, sent to steal souls and feast upon the hollow remains. Shadowy characters, men who kept to the dark of night were vampires. He was filled with a dangerous certainty and although he became a joke to most in our community, even alienating his own brother and sister, he had fellow pastors who believed him wholly. They were easily whipped up into a similar frenzy of conviction and it took little to persuade them to join him in his forays into the night in search of such beasts.
I followed him, unable to break my faith in them man who had never steered me wrong. I trained with the other pastors, learning what might stop a werewolf or a vampire and how not to be swayed by the lull of a witch. All of which was hypothetical, really. I did not see anything to make me truly believe my father for a long time but I was happy to remain loyal to him without evidence; the feeling of satisfaction was strong after all.
He killed many, that was certain. Women, mostly. They never screamed magical curses that turned any of us into toads, never vanished into thin air or rode away to safety upon their brooms. They simply cried and begged like young women and died in a mess of what seemed to be very human blood. My faith trembled and frayed but it held fast. I convinced myself that these were tricks to protect their sisters from exposure. Loyalty amongst thieves, as it were. The men were harder to explain away. No sharp fangs, no wolf ears or paws. No extraordinary strength or abhorrence to garlic and crosses. They died in confusion, offering money in place of their gruesome execution and I clung to my faith hard like I would fall into hell if I loosened my grip even slightly.
Up until my father grew ill, I had been only a witness to these forays. Lookout, at best. I had crafted weapons and helped the others but I had never killed a being, supernatural or otherwise. That all changed, though, when he became too frail and ill to lead us. The pastors turned to me, expecting me to head the raids my father had trail blazed.
And I still had my faith, so I agreed, but I decided to do things a little differently. There had been one very rare occasion when my father had killed something that could have actually been a vampire. Certainly, it showed no fear of the garlic cloves my father had thrown at it nor of the crosses the pastors thrust at it's face but the being was uncommonly pale and had eyes as red as rubies. Only when we set it upon fire, quite by accident, did the being die. I felt that if we had not made that mistake of dropping the oil lamp at it's feet, the creature would have murdered us without breaking a sweat.
So I decided that I would not focus on witches or werewolves primarily. I would seek out vampires. I told the pastors what to focus on specifically, instead of attacking anyone who looked remotely suspicious in a dark alleyway. But they were set in my father's ways and my suggestions were set aside. My father was stern and wouldn't listen to a word I had to say.
I killed many people. Not as many as my father, but still a considerable amount. I knew deep down that thus far, I had not rid the world of a single evil creature but I continued to hunt each and every night. Sometimes, I knew it was a human and even as they other pastors looked to me for guidance, I allowed them to kill the human because it was a person I didn't approve of. A dirty beggar, a renowned thief. My hands were covered in human blood and every night the pastors would celebrate with my ageing father and hold their convictions high; I celebrated with them and slept soundly at night.
But I became ferociously determined to find an actual vampire. I knew that if I could find just one, it would remove that nagging feeling of wrongdoing and wholly restore my faith. I scrutinised each hint of a trail, each whisper of a shadow.
Then one night there was a sewer raid and I knew I had found what I had been furiously searching for. My faith was not restored, it was broken. How could God allow creatures such as these to stalk the earth? They were crouched over two dead bodies, so covered in their own blood that I could barely tell if they were male or female.
After ripping most of the pastors limb from limb and laughing about it, I was certain I was about to die but one of them lifted me up by the scruff of the neck and examined me closely. I was trembling the entire time.
"This one," the vampire said to his coven. "This is the leader now, the old pastor is too weak to seek us out so he leads these fools against us. I have seen you strutting around town, boy. I know your kind. I have tasted your kind. All that righteousness really adds something to the blood."
The others gathered around us now, their fiery red eyes fixed upon me. There was a tangible sense of excitement all around in the rotten, bloody air. The vampire who held me up smiled, revealing his sharp, long teeth and I couldn't look away.
"You do believe you are better than us, don't you?" I tired to shake my head, but his grip was iron around my neck. "You think that because you have God and belief and faith that you have the right to seek us out and destroy us?"
The others hissed and snarled, moving closer in anticipation.
"Humans," the vampire sneered. "So arrogant and yet so stupid. This must be the first time you have actually succeeded in finding a single supernatural being. It frustrates you, boy, to sense that we are all around, but you have not found us until now. Indeed, your father only caught a glimpse of me once. He happened upon me feeding from a girl and it drove him mad enough to send him upon a crusade of murder that will ensure him a place in the lowest levels of hell."
I was faint from lack of breath, my vision spinning.
"I led you here, boy," he told me. "I set the trail and we waited here for you. Have you ever heard the old adage, 'Pride goeth before a fall'? It seems rather fitting for this occasion."
Then he leaned in close enough that I could smell the blood on his breath. "I should kill you, boy," he whispered to me. "I should rend you apart but I won't. No. I shall give you something else instead. Let us call it...perspective."
I had never told anyone exactly how it was I became a vampire. The story was in essence true, but I altered the perspective, as such. Attached shame and hesitance to my actions when in reality, there had been none. I had been an arrogant, prideful boy who had forced himself to ignore the horror of my actions. I had killed so many people and not lost a wink of sleep over it. It was my deep dark secret, I supposed.
We all had secrets. No-one could live as long as we did and not harbour secrets. Esme had her share of things she would never tell me and I was able to accept that because I had held things close to my chest and did not share them. It was this fact that made me respect our children's need for privacy and secrecy too. Perhaps if I had no secrets of my own, I would have been more prying, more judgemental, like the boy I once was. But I did have secrets and shameful things hidden away in my past so I let them alone and strove to keep my mind wide open.
But sometimes that was a little difficult when one lived with a telepath.
It took work to conceal things from Edward and for all I knew, my efforts might have been wasted, but I felt deep down that they were not. I tried my best for many years to keep little things hidden from him. Partly for my own selfish reasons. Edward had been my brother for a time in the beginning and I loved him a great deal too much to have his glorified opinion of me besmirched by the truth of past deeds. Besides, he had secrets of his own to preciously guard.
It made me sad sometimes, to see him so locked away inside himself and the secrets he was forced to keep. Omniscience must have been a burden, especially to Edward who was so deeply private at times that he had admitted he felt tainted by the secrets of others even. The gifts of immortality more often than not held an unpleasant underline of irony. Rosalie's beauty, Edward's telepathy, Alice's foresight, Jasper's sensitivity. There was a cruel and bitter sense of humour involved somewhere, I was certain of it.
He sat before me, struggling to find the words he wished for and I waited patiently, allowing my own mind to wander a little while he was so distracted. If he knew what I had been thinking, he said nothing of it. Finally, he looked up at me from where he sat at the kitchen counter while I leaned back casually, arms crossed and exuding patience. He had come to see me three minutes ago and had not yet spoken. I was still cleaning up from the party, even though it had been two days. I was still finding streamers and balloon skins in various places. Who had even thought to bring streamers to what was supposed to be a massacre style face off with the leaders of our species? Tanya, perhaps.
"So," he said quietly and I looked up, ready and waiting to be as supportive as was physically possible. He had been through so much lately, we all had, but he seemed to have borne the brunt of it. "Everything is...OK?"
I was not expecting that, to say the least. His current state of nervousness was enough to have me sufficiently worried.
"At present time, everything would indeed seem to be all right," I told him evenly. He wrung his hands together, an odd little gesture he seemed to have inherited from Rosalie perhaps. She never could control her hands when she was nervous. "But then," I added smiling. "One never does know when Van Helsing might suddenly pop out of a nearby shrub."
He didn't return my smile, nor did he seem to have heard what I had said. He seemed focused on spot to my left where his eyes were sharply focused on what seemed to be nothing.
"Edward?" I asked quietly. "What is it?"
He sighed and looked away from his important nothingness. "I don't know. I feel like...I was prepared to...it seems too easy, you know? We get to have all this. I get to have all this and I don't deserve any of it, I really don't. I was prepared to die, Carlisle and I didn't."
He shrugged elegantly. "No, of course not but still you cannot deny that for us, nothing ever comes this easily. It seems wrong somehow. Too easy. Too...perfect."
"That makes you nervous?"
"It doesn't make you nervous?" he asked, finally meeting my eyes and I could see then how something was eating away at him and it made me even sadder to think that it might actually be happiness and how unprepared for it he really was. He and Rosalie had more in common than they would ever know.
"It is completely understandable to feel like this," I said. "We were expecting a big fight, maybe even preparing for loss and then nothing really happened. The best outcome possible became reality. As close to happy ever after as we've come for a long time and as I said, I can see why it would make you uncomfortable." I paused and leaned in a little closer to gain his full attention. "But there is nothing to worry about. Edward, everything is alright."
"Yes, I know," he said nodding in agreement but it rang false and I felt helpless to ease his sadness. Where was Bella when you needed her? Seeing to Nessie no doubt in the cottage, but still it felt suddenly strange to even see Edward without Bella. "I know I'm just being stupid, y'know?"
I placed my hand on his shoulder and squeezed it gently. "It's been a hard few years, son. Troubles will come and go, they always do and this is one of the few times when we can breathe. Don't waste it."
I watched him leave and couldn't help but think the same thought as before; that the cause of the weight upon his strange, old shoulders might actually be happiness.
'...I've heard you say many times
That you're better than no one
And no one is better than you.
If you really believe that,
You know you have
Nothing to win and nothing to lose.
From fixtures and forces and friends
Your sorrow does stem.
That hype you and type you,
Making you feel
That you gotta be just like them...'
The last time I had ever woken up, it had been in the grip of fear. I had gone from being a mortal, to an immortal and the space in between was lost to me forever. The time before it was blurred and indistinct but everything after I could still recall with crisp perfection. Those moments that I rose from darkness to light, unconsciousness to a state of full wakefulness that would never depart, were what I marked to be beginning of my life. And as such, I awoke in fear. It seemed a bad start, but I could not have chosen a different one.
After that, I began to miss the sensation of waking. It was unendingly strange to never sleep and even after decades of sameness, I still occasionally yearned for the bliss of those few ignorant moments after waking. Being in a full state of consciousness all the time was tiring, especially for me what with my mind working a million miles a minute. I often sought out the serenity that chaos could offer one such a myself. The delight of unpredictability became something I felt myself leaning towards and as a result, I knew people thought me a little strange. I didn't care though, because there was one person who didn't think I was strange or weird. My Jasper. My best friend, lover and partner in all things.
I had my eyes closed on the floor where we lay, wrapped up in one another. It had been a long time since we had been intimate and it felt ridiculously wonderful to be so reconnected. I couldn't get enough of his arms around me, of his scent which my primitive brain thought of as 'home'.
Last night he had proposed to me; he had actually got down on one knee and asked me to marry him. No strange gesture to impress me, no big speech. Just a simple question and so much love in his eyes. Now we were engaged for the first time. It felt so special, even though I knew we would probably do this a hundred times more in the future. Already my mind was whirring with images of dresses and flowers, but I tried to shut it off because that wasn't what I cared about, not really.
It felt like a fresh start for us. That was what was important. We had been through an undoubtedly rough patch recently and this felt like both of us admitting to past mistakes and agreeing to start anew. It was the most wonderful feeling I had felt in a long time and I desperately wished I could have spelt a little through the night just so I could wake up and feel the fresh bubbling excitement and joy at remembering what had happened.
"What are you thinking about?" he asked me, stroking me hair slowly. His voice was a soft, warm baritone and it sent shivers down my spine, as if I hadn't heard it in so long.
"New things," I told him. "New places, new feelings."
He pressed his warm lips to my nose. "Sounds good," he murmured.
I opened my eyes. It was the closest thing I would ever get to waking up, but I decided it was more than good enough to open my eyes and see his face.
"It will be," I promised him.
'...I'd forever talk to you,
But soon my words
They would turn into a meaningless ring.
For deep in my heart
I know there is no help I can bring.
Just do what you think you should do.
And someday, maybe,
Who knows, baby,
I'll come and be cryin' to you.'
-April 12th 1973-
It was hard to believe, looking down at my wedding finger, that it had been two whole years since Emmett had given me that ring. It had not come off for even a moment since then and I planned for it never to. It glistened subtly on my finger as I stared at it fiercely, hoping everything else would simply fade away if I stared hard enough. I counted the glistening edges, memorised the shade of light if reflected. Anything so I didn't have to look in the mirror.
It was my wedding day. The day I was going to marry Emmett. It was almost a year and a half in the planning and now it was there, staring me in the face. Emmett was downstairs with the men; Carlisle, Jasper and Edward I supposed while I was upstairs, readying myself. My hair had been fixed perfectly, my make-up, my clothes...all expertly and lovingly applied by Alice, who had spent the last year in a state of planning ecstasy. I had let her do pretty much whatever she wanted and that was why two thirds of the small town we currently resided in had been invited. I would have preferred something small and intimate, just family really. But it was easier in the long run to give her what she wanted. To give everyone what they wanted, what they expected of me. A large, over the top wedding the for the over the top bride. Whatever was easiest for them to believe.
Everything was ready, there could be no more delays. I was sitting in front of a large mirror in my room, wearing my wedding dress and I couldn't force myself to look up. I was terrified. Terrified of seeing myself in that white dress, knowing what I had done the last time I wore such a garment.
But worse still, I was consumed with the terror of looking myself in the eye. Petrified of realising how much this felt wrong on every level, especially at the thought of Edward downstairs chatting politely, in formal wear. Edward who would watch me marry another man, his brother. Edward who would smile and congratulate me and I would feel his pain, despite not having Jasper's talents. Edward who I loved too much to even allow myself to think of him fully. Edward.
I wasn't going to be able to do this, I just wasn't. My composure wouldn't hold, I was going to shatter apart with wrongness and never in my life had I wanted to run away more. The air felt like a living thing it was so hot all of a sudden, it was choking me, strangling me to death and the desire to flee was overwhelming.
The door opened slightly and I opened my mouth, ready to ask Alice to give me a few more minutes, but it wasn't Alice. Of course it wasn't Alice.
"Hey," he said softly, closing the door behind him with a quiet click. Just his presence filled me something almost like raw electricity, but it was too potent. Too much for my immortal, unyielding body. It always was. He didn't ask how I was feeling. He probably knew.
"I'll be down in a minute," I said, trying to sound calm but it didn't come out calm at all. It was a strangled, choked sound like that of a panicked animal. "Finishing touches."
He said nothing, just moved to stand beside him. After a moment, I felt his hand reach down to grasp mine. I closed my eyes, trying to block out the instant flood of desire, want, need, adore, run, run, run with me. It was my wedding day and I couldn't face eternity if I had betrayed my husband to be on that day of all days.
"It's going to be OK," he told me quietly. No words of how beautiful I looked, he knew I wouldn't want to hear that. If he heard my ridiculous thoughts of running, he said nothing of it. "It's all going to be OK."
"When?" I whispered and the knife in my heart twisted agonisingly for allowing myself to think of such things. "Tell me when."
"Soon," he promised me faithfully and it was somehow a relief to hear his voice crack a little. "You'll see."
I couldn't take it anymore. I stood up so fast I almost fell in that stupid dress, but he caught me and stared eagerly into my eyes, waiting to see what I needed from him, what would give me strength that day. I gripped his hand tightly in mine and stared at him, painfully restraining myself from doing all the things I longed to, that I needed to.
"How can you stand this?" I whispered, so close to him...far too close. "How can you let this happen?"
He turned his face away a little, but I saw the pain. "What would you have me do, love? Whisk you away, elope with you and never look back?"
It sounded like a genuine question, but it was rhetorical. Of course it was. It had to be.
"We can't, we promised..."
"I know!" he only just stopped himself from yelling. "I know, Rosalie. We made promises and I will help you keep them. Do you think it's easy to witness you marry another man? Do you not think I would sell my soul a thousand times over to be in Emmett's shoes? How I torture myself over and over that I didn't just get on my hands and knees and beg you to marry me before and let your emotional issues be damned!" His voice broke and he seemed to be trying to pull himself together. His hand was gripping mine like he intended to fuse them together; handcuffs born of immortal flesh and determination.
I was moments away from crying and I knew I had to stop it. He knew it too, so he took a deep breath and looked me in the eyes.
"I will always be here, Rosalie," he whispered. "Always. Nothing will alter that."
"Not time, or love or obligation," I choked out, quietly enough that no-one but those present could have detected it.
He smiled, heartbreakingly sad and repeated the words back. Our own little vow for the day that should have been his. The pain was inconceivable; it was like a pair of hands around my neck, inside my chest, tightening every moment that passed. I felt like I might pass out from lack of highly unnecessary oxygen; it was irrational, I knew but it felt so real. He held me up, perhaps knowing I might fall without him there to prevent it.
"We have to go," he told me in a steady voice that I knew was forced.
There was no time for anything else, there never was. His words in my mind, I went and married the man I loved, leaving the man I was the other half of, watching from a distance.
'Listen as the wind blows,
From across the great divide.
Voices trapped in yearning,
Memories trapped in time.
The night is my companion,
And solitude my guide.
Would I spend forever here,
And not be satisfied...'
"So," I asked my agent over the phone. "What did you think?"
There was a long and rather pregnant pause before he replied, "Well."
"Well what?" I demanded as politely as possible. It had been a week now since I'd sent him the first three chapters and a basic outline of the story I had been writing for the past eleven years and my patience was wearing thin. "Tell me what you thought of it, editing aside?"
"I'm...not...sure," he said, disjointedly, as though it was causing him immense pain to even answer me. "I mean, it was really well written like your other work, of course."
"Yes, but what did you think of the story?" I asked, pinching the bridge of my nose in frustration. Usually my agent was a great guy, genuinely good at his job of selling my little pieces of work under a carefully constructed pen name. He never took this long to contact me before and it was making me jittery.
"It seems to be a bit, uh...a bit...flowery?" he burst out after apparently holding his breath. "And these characters, Jasper. I mean...who will...uh...take them seriously? So much angst in the first chapter alone! No-one will be able to handle it. I don't...think."
"How is any of this different from my other work? From the poems?"
He sighed, sounding defeated. "The difference, my annoying friend, is that...it's really good."
I blinked, unsure of how to take that. "Excuse me?"
"Oh I didn't mean to say your other work wasn't good! No, it was brilliant, of course it was otherwise it wouldn't have sold, would it? No I mean...what I'm trying to say is that this is just...different."
"Fred," I ground out. "Will you please just give it to me straight? What did you think of it?"
"I loved it, OK?" he snapped so suddenly that I jumped. "I loved it! Is that what you wanted to hear? You wrote a dark, tragic love story and I should hate it but I love it! Are you happy now? I'm fifty three years old and you've got me hooked on some stupid vampire love story. I hope you're happy. Well, of course you are. It's gonna sell like hotcakes and you're gonna be disgustingly rich." After a highly disgruntled pause, he said, "I can't believe you only sent me three chapters, bastard. Send me the rest already will you? I've read what you sent five times."
My mind seemed to have gotten lost somewhere in that tirade and I felt more than a little confused. "So...you liked it?"
"Of course I liked it, haven't you been listening?" he yelled. "That's the whole problem! You've made me like a story that will be in the hands of every literate teenage girl in the universe within a month of it being published!"
"Of course!" he replied, sounding a little less annoyed now. "Like I said, it's gonna sell like crazy."
"But why would you aim it at teenagers?" I asked, so confused. "Did you read it, Fred? The woman in it is raped to death."
"Who doesn't like a little sprinkling of angst on their immortal love story sundae?" he quipped back. "Trust me, pal, it's gonna sell. Big time."
I felt a nasty twisting sensation in my gut.
"Why do you think it will sell big?" I asked carefully, trying to calm the growing sense of unease.
"What do you mean?"
"I mean, what is it that's different from my other stuff?"
"I can't really say with so little material," he said sounding genuinely put out now. "But my instincts tell me it's them. The characters. I mean, this story has been done a few times already. The whole vampire love thing is already out there, for sure but these characters, Lillian and Anthony, they're different. They're the reason it will sell. I can see it now. They'll call it Lanthony."
I felt something rise up in my throat. "Excuse me?"
"Y'know. Their names. It's what all the kids do now. They mash up the names to make one name, as if they're one person. Cute, huh?"
So many years of writing the same story, stopping only to write a little something else on the side and now here was my agent telling me that it was going to be huge, a great success and I felt, for the very first time, that what I had accomplished was closer to a violation than a narrative. I tried to imagine everyone knowing of this story, people talking openly about it and even maybe writing...what was it called, fanfiction about it?
I realised I hadn't thought this through at all. Even down to something as simple as the working title names I chose for the characters was terrible. How could I have done this to them? Threatened to reveal so much of their life together, their connection? Their unending indiscretions?
"Actually, Fred," I said. "I've changed my mind."
"What? You won't send me the next chapters? You bastard! I'll pay you!"
"No, you idiot. I'm not publishing it."
Another large silence. "Jasper," he said like he was talking to a frustrating six year old. "The aim of publishing a book is money. You will make huge amounts of money. I don't see the problem."
"That wasn't the goal with the other stuff!" I snapped.
"The other stuff wasn't like this! I was happy to find you a publisher, God knows we need a little under-appreciated literature to look back at in a hundred years but this is different! This could be a breakthrough for you, for us! What's five percent of a million?"
I sighed and felt a sinking sensation in my chest. Why hadn't I thought of this before? Because I didn't think it would be as big as my agent was saying it would be. I imagined it as he had described my other work. Lost in a bookshelf except to a few like minded individuals. The idea of it going mainstream, of it being made into a movie!
No. It had to be stopped. This was something different, something that the world was not ready for. How could I have been so reckless.
"Fred," I said in my sternest voice. "Burn it."
Now he sounded vaguely like he might cry. "But...five percent! Of a million!"
"Goddamn you to hell, Jasper!" he cried. "If I had the other chapters, I would publish this faster than you could say lawsuit!"
"You never will, not will anyone else," I informed him. "But I'm sorry to be ruining your dreams of five percent of greatness. I'll send you the fifty grand as a...bonus, OK? A little thank you for your years of loyalty and enthusiasm for written correspondence."
That did seem to cheer him up immensely, although he still asked me one more time for the other chapters. I refused and he seemed genuinely disappointed. We parted on good terms, but I felt badly shaken.
I stared at the phone for a good long while after the call had disconnected, wondering at how close I had come to something terrible. What had I been thinking? That story was not for others, or at least certainly not for the general public. It had begun as a cathartic exercise for my own benefit, but had grown well out of control and it had seemed logical to publish. It was years of work on my part and an incredible story, but now I could see that it was something private and secret. No-one knew I published things, of course. Not even Alice. That was part of my concern, that it would become something they would learn about and see the correlations, despite name and circumstance alterations. Imagine Bella picking up a copy one day.
It was more than that, though. I felt a sense of guardianship of the story. I was privileged in a way to even know the little things that I did about the two people in the story. They had trusted me like no-one else, especially Rosalie. No, I would never betray her. How could I even have thought of it? So I would destroy my work and keep their secret.
There were enough vampire love stories in the world, anyway.
'...Through this world I've stumbled,
So many times betrayed.
Trying to find an honest word,
To find the truth enslaved.
Oh you speak to me in riddles and
You speak to me in rhymes.
My body aches to breathe your breath,
Your words keep me alive...'
I couldn't understand where the hesitation was coming from; my hands were afraid of making contact, my fingers unsure of their place and instruction. Which was ridiculous because I had been doing this all my life; I knew how to do this. Why did it seem alien and strange all of a sudden?
Perhaps because it had been a long time.
I closed my eyes and tried to settle my mind into stillness, waiting for peace to come but it never quite arrived, it never did. So I decided to try anyway.
The first chord was a little too loud and clumsy and it sounded wrong to my ears but once I had done it, the fear was gone. It had been far too long since I'd had the chance to sit and play piano. After a few minutes, my hands were flowing across the keys and I was playing with closed eyes, lost in the old sensations. Everything good seemed to be old; all the best things originating from a time long ago. So many things lost in time, all the beauty and the aesthetics lost on a generation of accelerated pleasure seeking maniacs. Of course, who was I to speak? But that piano was one of the few old, beautiful objects that remained with us.
It was the piano I'd played while wondering who Edward's favourite composer was, too young to know at the time. The same beautiful instrument he had been playing whilst I was in the bath and my thoughts had made him hit a dull note. The piano that he used to compose music for me, back in the days when I was all he could think of. The piano I had broken on purpose. The piano he composed Bella's lullaby on. The piano that had come with us everywhere, listened to everything and said nothing, except to sing sweetly the way we always wanted. Officially, it was Edward's piano but I felt that it was mine in part. Even the sight of it was incredibly reassuring. Sturdy and patient, waiting in it's designated room; the only musical instrument we owned, the only one we needed.
Sometimes I longed for Edward's creativity with music. While I could play very well and play almost anything within a few minutes of hearing it, he could write his own music. Compose his very own songs out of his own feelings and emotions and I envied him that. My fear was that if I created something like that; so personal and delicate, it could be easily ridiculed or analysed by others. My songs were best stuck where they were born; in my head. I still remembered a little piece of a tune he had once written for me. It sounded nothing like what he had crafted for Bella and for that I was thankful. It echoed in my mind occasionally in the place of a long lost French lullaby.
My fingers slowed and lost their pace as my ears detected sounds; a laughter that could only be Alice or Nessie. If it was Nessie, then she was back early from her trip with Jacob. I swallowed my continuing and seemingly irrevocable dislike of the young wolf boy. It was no longer centred around his grating personality (though it still existed in spades) but now it was his constant and unyielding obsession with Nessie who was, to my eyes at least, a child. No-one else seemed to mind, except Edward but even he made the effort to be polite and courteous to the man who Nessie seemed to have little choice but be betrothed to.
"Damnit," I muttered softly as I missed a key. I stopped playing altogether and sighed, resting my hands in my lap. There was no point in getting angry; he wasn't going anywhere and I would achieve nothing by starting a fight. Again.
She was not my baby, after all. Everyone had told me that it was important that I grasp that. She was Bella and Edward's baby, born of their flesh and passion and love and she was nothing to me but a niece to dote upon.
It hurt a great deal to swallow down the automatic love that bubbled up for that beautiful child, Edward's child. Moderate amounts were acceptable of course, the same as everyone else and maybe they all expected a little more even but mostly I contained myself. It was not jealousy, it was not envy. It was something else.
A universal acceptance of my lot in life; to always be allowed to see the things I long for most in the world, but never to have or own them. Edward and the baby were always going to be in my life and they would never be anything to me but relatives. Niece and brother. That acceptance was a weight around my heart; heavy and unyielding in all things, but I couldn't fight it anymore. Edward was married with a baby, born of another woman. What chance did I have?
The voice inside my head had been quiet since I had first held Edward's baby. Maybe it was broken, gone forever at the sight of something we could never compete with and wouldn't even want to compete with. Sometimes she would whisper a memory here and there, point out a time when something as simple as Edward's presence in a room would have set me alight, but now it set me on edge. It felt like capitulation on her part.
But he was happy, it was clear to see in his eyes; in the smiles and loudness, the laughter, games and playfulness. He had everything he had ever wanted and I felt like I had accomplished something by helping him get it. His beautiful wife and a baby, all safe together, never dying, never leaving one another. A dream come true.
The voice might have gone, but I was still prone to bitterness. I was still Rosalie Hale.
There was a part of me that knew it should have been me. Some distant knowledge that it was always supposed to be me, but that everything had been wrong for us. We were the star crossed lovers, but we had not died; we had survived and continued our tragic, doomed romance for far too long. And there was tragedy there; not only what we wrought ourselves, with the angst and pain of who we were. There was an underlining tragedy that meant we could never be together without hurting someone else. Other couples who meet and fall in love are celebrated by their family, congratulated and well wished.
We would tear everyone apart, betray those we loved dearly and break apart a family that endured many hardships. Our happiness would be the devastation of others.
We were never even supposed to meet. Edward should have died when he fell ill, Carlisle should never have saved him and we would never have met. I would have died where Royce King left me and we would be nothing but lost memories by now. I felt as though we had angered the Gods sometimes; as though our refusal to die according to their schedule had prompted them to set us upon a tragic course for the rest of our immortal lives. To always know we had found one another, but to never have one another for more than a few stolen moments. To hide our happiness and seek our what morsals could be salvaged in others.
But then, most of it was my fault.
Those were the bitter thoughts I had to swallow down before they consumed me entirely. Memories of missed opportunities, lost chances, little things I could have done differently, done better. I could have said yes, swallowed my pride, forced myself out of my depression. I could have done so many things when it was the four of us; no outsiders, no real objections should Edward and I have announced we were getting married. I'd had my chance and let it slip through my fingers like water. It left a sour taste in my throat, so I tried to dismiss it and return to blaming cruel deities instead, fixed upon the notion that, sometimes, something was just not meant to be.
It had been a brief,and bitter-sweet visit to the old piano. One I hoped I would find time to repeat again. I ran my fingers over the smooth, warm wooden top and quietly said goodbye for now before leaving the room to go join everyone else. It took effort; joining the family wasn't always something I wanted to do lately, given the new addition to the household and I didn't mean Nessie.
Emmett was waiting outside for me, leaning against the wall casually. I smiled when I saw him and he moved into kiss me gently; a greeting that, a few months ago, would have been entirely shocking given the state of our relationship. The guilt was overwhelming sometimes, how much he forgave and how much he took from me. I would never deserve him, not a million years.
"Hey baby," he said, placing a soft kiss on my lips. "That was beautiful playing. It's been a while, huh?" He seemed gently inquisitive as though he didn't want to pry.
"I miss it," I told him, stroking his cheek. "It's been far too long."
He nodded in agreement. "You should make time from now on. It's good for you, baby. You should think about getting one for us when we-"
"When did they get back?" I asked, subtly changing the subject.
"Jake and Ness?" he asked, not picking up on the sudden change. "Few minutes ago. Edward's gonna flip out I think," he said suddenly excited, as though he were in possession of some mischievous gossip. His eyes lit up and I couldn't help but smile and lean in the hear it.
"'Cos Nessie's first words once she gets through the door were, 'I'm all in love with Jakey and I want to marry him!'"
I was almost certain that a little bit of bile rose up in my throat. So I wouldn't actually convulse, I began walking.
"Was he there?" I asked and we headed for downstairs, to see the returning pair.
"No, but Carlisle and Jasper were. Edward'll hear it the minute he gets near them. Maybe we should reach minimum safe distance." The excitement in his voice was adorable.
I managed a spectacularly real looking grin. "What, and miss all the fun? I think not."
"That's my girl," he said with a grip, wrapping his bear arm around me and squeezing me tightly. It felt like the grip I'd known so long ago; it had made me feel safe then and I was a little thrilled to find that I felt that way then, after so long.
Maybe there was hope after all.
It wasn't until a few hours later, while I was in the yard staring up at the sky from beneath the tree I had almost destroyed, that he came to me. I had sensed his longing to do so all night; after watching the disappointingly polite exchange between Edward and Jacob about what Nessie had come out with, he had become tense and fraught with an emotion that felt unpleasant. His frustration was buried deep beneath his fear of upsetting Bella and his daughter, neither of which he believed he deserved. I still retained the ability to sense his thoughts and feelings from time to time. When I felt particularly worn or distant, my guard would drop just enough and something would slip in. A stray observation, a snippet of a feeling. Little bits and pieces of a mind I was once completely inside and a part of.
The stars were particularly stunning that night; perfectly displayed by the icy, black sky. It had been too long since I had stared at them with no expectations; not expecting answers or guidance. Just watching the echoes of light, long lost to us, but visible anyway. I stared at them for a while until I heard the back door close quietly and sensed him before I saw him. Everything shifted; my focus, my senses, my emotions were all set in complete disarray but I fought violently to remain outwardly calm.
He stopped when he was within a few yards of me and said, "Did I disturb you?"
"You know you didn't," I told him quietly. "Like you know you shouldn't have come."
"Story of our life, Rose," he chuckled but it was humourless, tentative. "Can I...may I speak with you?"
It hurt to hear him so formal, like he was stuck in that 'Tone I Must Use With Jacob'. I turned and replied, "Of what?"
And just like that, the very sight of him outside with me in the dark of the night shook me to the core. It had been a while now since we had spoken alone and I had stupidly begun to think I was getting stronger the more time we spent without being alone. That strength was gone now; I was nineteen years old again, confused and so in love I was lost inside of him. He was everything, he was me and if we couldn't be one and the same I was going to die.
He gasped, like I'd hit him and took a few steps back. "Rosalie, stop it!"
I struggled to regain control but it had blind-sided me and now I was bitter, now I was furious that he wasn't mine and would never be mine again and that he had come outside to make that very clear to me.
I stumbled backwards and felt the tree holding me up. So many memories of that tree, of how it had groaned against the pressure our bodies were applying, of how there had been nothing but that tree to stop us falling, falling forever.
Emmett was right, we did need to leave.
I opened my eyes, trembling with the effort of controlling myself, hating to feel like this, subject to the passion the pulsated through me. Edward was staring at me, open mouthed and wide eyed. "Excuse me?"
"You said...you're leaving again?"
By this point, I'd managed to push myself back up.
"Of course we are," I said, trying to keep my voice down. How had we never been caught? It was ridiculous, we were ridiculous and the fact that no-one had wandered outside to see what we were doing all alone in the dark, cloistered yard was a miracle.
"But..." He looked as crestfallen as a young boy, denied his comfort blanket. "You can't leave. Nessie."
I blinked, waiting for him to say something else and when it was clear he wasn't going to I said, "Nessie...what?"
"You can't leave because of Nessie," he clarified, moving closer, perhaps unknowingly.
"Nessie is why I have to leave," I said, dropping to a low whisper. "And you know it."
He flinched. "Is it...is it that hard?"
"No, you fool! Nessie can communicate with you telepathically. How long will it take for her to put two and two together with God only knows what goes on in your mind?"
He didn't seem to understand, looking as confused and lost as I had ever seen him. "But...she's only projecting her thoughts on to me. She can't read my thoughts, not really."
There was most definitely a highly unfair ratio of times I had to be the strong, sensible one in this mess of a relationship. "Are you certain? One hundred percent, Edward? No, you're not, and you can't be either. You can't protect the secret you swore to protect." I sighed and dropped my gaze down, not wanting to see his face, those eyes because my heart was breaking as it was. "You've only ever kept one of the promises you made to me, Edward. When you swore that no-one would ever find out. You swore it."
"I can...I can control it," he stammered, taking a single step forward as if I was about to run right there and then. "I won't break my promise, Rose."
"You can't know," I told him. "That's why you're here, isn't it? To tell me that we have to draw a line under things. A clean break, right here and now, forever more."
The words burned in my throat like acid and I wanted, more than anything for him to deny that. To tell me that he'd come to beg me to run away with him and the baby, that we could leave together and hide away on the other side of the planet with our child and be happy.
But instead he stared at me like he couldn't remember how to speak and no offers of escape came out. My heart sank once more and I felt stupid and childish for even having entertained the thought. There were no happy endings for creatures such as myself.
"Which is the right thing to do, of course," I said quietly, nodding. "You have a baby now and she comes first. Bella is your wife and you two have a baby. It's a miracle and you don't mess with miracles, right?"
He dropped his head into his hands and the urge to comfort him was primal and fierce.
"What do you want me to do, Rose? Tell me!" he begged, hidden by his hands. "What am I supposed to do?"
I slowly went towards him, each step feeling heavier as I moved. It was only with a strength unbeknownst to me that I refrained from touching him.
"You be a wonderful Father and a good husband," I told him, ignoring the agony in my chest, my soul perhaps. "You have more than any of us could dream of, Edward. This is your miracle, what you deserve for so many years of being cursed."
He looked up suddenly, eyes wide and open so much that it hurt to see him so unguarded at such at time.
"Cursed? How can you say that?" he demanded in a furious gasp. "Not a moment of time spent with you has been cursed, Rosalie Hale and how dare you insinuate otherwise? You think I don't know that I wouldn't even have this miracle if it weren't for you? You think I'm blithely unaware of what you've given up, what you've gone through to make sure I have all this?"
"Then why are doing this to me?" I asked, closing my eyes. "You know what must happen now. You know and yet you put me this this charade as if it is my choice to make. I have given you all I can. The baby I could never give you, the happiness we could never generate whilst hurting so many we love. I can give you no more, Edward. Not without destroying what little remains of myself."
He grabbed me by the upper arms and any moment someone was going to walk outside and see us. "Don't you dare talk like that!" he hissed, furious and desperate. "You're my Rosalie and you're never weak, never empty or on the verge of giving up. You're the strong one, Rose. You always have been, so don't talk like that's it! Don't talk like you're done because you're not, you never will be!"
I wrenched out of his grip. "How else can it be? There is no other path to walk, Edward. There is only one choice, one way of living from now on and we cannot carve out a path of our own any longer. Everything is different. We're different."
"No, that's not true! You are the only thing in my life that remains constant, the only thing I can trust and know and love and...how can you say these things to me? It makes no difference, not really!"
The desperation was thick in the air, choking me and clouding my head, but I strove onwards because it was evident that he would or could not.
"Your daughter is inside with your wife," I said and my voice caught a little, coming out uneven and weak; not good at all. "What on Earth can I say after that?"
He was lost for words and I couldn't bear to be outside with him a moment longer. I needed to get away, get somewhere private and alone and let my heart break apart.
"Be happy, my darling," I whispered, close enough that I could feel the misery coming off him in wave. I heard him let out a small sob just as I passed him by as fast as possible.
'...Into this night I wander,
It's morning that I dread.
Another day of knowing of
The path I fear to tread.
Oh, into the sea of waking dreams
I follow without pride.
Nothing stands between us here
And I won't be denied.'
The news that Rosalie and Emmett were leaving came a few days after whatever altercation had occurred between Edward and Rosalie in the yard and it was received badly by all but one Child of the Moon (urgh, I was never going to get over that. It was like something from World of Warcraft). Jacob seemed to take the news that competition for Nessie's attention would soon be removed seemingly permanently rather well.
Esme in particular was extremely upset that with this announcement there seemed to be no intention of returning for a good long while and if then only for visits. I had never seen her forbid anything before, not with any conviction. She had stated a dozen reasons why they couldn't go away and stay away, most of which were concerning Nessie. Jacob seemed to take each one personally, as if he could do absolutely everything for his beloved alone and without assistance. I was with Rosalie on my opinion of him and the fact that he was now what seemed to be a permanent fixture in life made me quite depressed.
"I just don't understand why you can't come back after you're finished doing...whatever it is you need to do!" Esme exclaimed fiercely, her eyes fixed upon Rosalie as though she was certain this was mostly her doing. "This is your home, here with us."
It was only for a split second, but I saw Rosalie's eyes flick to where Jacob sat and I knew his omnipresence in our lives was a factor in her decision to leave. But of course it was stupid to ignore those other, much larger factors, also sitting in the room.
"Darling," Carlisle murmured quietly to his wife. "They are adults and have been for many years now. Any decision they make is theirs entirely."
Esme looked like she badly wanted to debate that and I was amused and somewhat baffled to see her throw an accusatory glare at Edward as if she believed he somehow had a part in this.
"Where will you go?" Bella asked, bouncing a giggling Nessie on her lap.
"England, perhaps," Rosalie said, carefully neutral. "Scotland afterwards for a time."
"You intend to integrate into the community?" Alice asked quietly and somewhat sadly. "Just the two of you?"
Rosalie sighed. "Please, I am not...I do not wish anyone to believe that we are going for any other reason than a wish to see more of the world together."
"When do you leave?" came the predictable question from Jacob in the corner, almost mirroring my trademark taciturn, shadow lurking stance. His existence was starting giving me a headache.
Bella shot him a cross glare and he shrugged, but seemed to be aware of the disapproving stares he was receiving.
"Soon," Rosalie answered shortly. "Arrangements have to be made but they can be expedited. We hope to leave within three weeks."
"So soon?" Esme said, looking genuinely upset now. "You could wait for a few years, you should wait!"
Emmett took Rosalie's hand in his and said, "If we don't do this now, I think we both feel that we won't ever do it. Now is a good time too, what with everyone distracted by the baby. It's a good time to go."
"It's a terrible time to go," said Edward, quite unexpectedly. Everyone turned to look at him and I was shocked and quite terrified to see how openly resentful his face was. "After everything we've been through."
It was one of those horrible times when I thought I might explode out of my own skin with tension because they didn't seem to care that they were obviously talking directly to one another right in front of everyone else. My curse was not a dangerous addiction to human blood; it was to bear witness to those two, forever on the verge of being discovered, forever unaware.
"That's all over now," Rosalie countered calmly and I prayed she, at least, wouldn't be drawn into what I had seen them explode into a hundred times. "Everything is alright."
"Is it?" he snapped and Nessie gave a sniffle, looking sad to see her father in such a state.
"Edward," Bella reprimanded quietly, clearly surprised by his attitude. "Stop it."
"No, I don't understand why they think they have to leave!" he practically yelled and I was going to have an aneurysm. "Our family has been through hell the last few weeks and now they want to go and leave us in such a vulnerable state?"
"Edward, calm down," Carlisle intoned. "We are in no such state."
"What if the Volturi come back? Caius was furious that he didn't get to kill any of us!"
"He is not that foolish," Carlisle told him. "Son, we are all upset, but it is their decision."
"No it is not!"
My mouth opened of it's own volition and I couldn't have moved to save my own life. No-one was moving at all, no-one was breathing, not even Black. Everyone was staring at Edward who was now on his feet, looking like he was actually about to burst into something that sounded suspiciously like the awful truth. I felt the terror coming off of Rosalie in pulsating waves and I wanted to do something but was I frozen, caught in the horror of his actions.
It was Emmett who broke the electrified silence. "Um, sorry dude, but why is that?"
"Because..." he said, staring at Rosalie. I wanted to cover my face, my ears, so I didn't have to hear or see it. I imagined him answering truthfully: 'because she's mine, because I need her, love her, worship her, can't go a day without having her near to me.' "B-because you're my family and I love you and I want you here with me, with all of us forever. We're all we have, in the whole world and if we break apart and go our separate ways we'll never be the same."
Some form of sense had stolen the reigns from the insane version of Edward and thankfully he hadn't blurted out his undying love for Rosalie and the consequential affair of some seventy years between them.
I was about to take a breath of some small relief, when Rosalie spoke, staring at Edward just as fiercely. "Nothing is ever the same. Everything changes, Edward," she told him.
"Not everything," he said. "Not...our family. Not the Cullens. We stay the same, forever. Living the same life for decades and we always stay together. We always find a way."
"We can't do that now," Rosalie pointed out. "You can't. You have a baby and as wonderful as that is, you and Bella can hardly go somewhere and start over in a new school can you?"
My un-beating heart was going to go into cardiac arrest, I was certain of it. How had they never been discovered before? How ?
"Then we'll work something out," he ground out. "As a family, we'll work out what it is we have to do to stay together. You are right, things do have to change, but they don't have cease to be. We can change the situation, make it better than it was before. Wear make-up and go to college instead, buy houses and live next door to each other and...stay together, but in a different way. We can change but make it work. We always have done. We always will."
I fought the urge to put my hand over my eyes. Why didn't he just blurt out the whole thing there and then? I was waiting with unpleasant anticipation for someone, Bella or Emmett surely, to demand what the hell was going on, but nothing happened for a few moments until Esme spoke.
"Edward is right," she said, sounding somewhat thrilled to have such vocal backup. "We can make it work, we always do. You don't have to leave because things are different now."
Again, I sensed some strange underlying meaning of Esme's words but couldn't place it. I was too amazed that no-one had stood up and started yelling yet.
"You should stay," Bella piped up, smiling rather sweetly. "Someone has to be Nessie's Godmother."
Rosalie looked floored for a moment, perhaps genuinely touched by the gesture. Edward spun to face his wife, giving her a grateful smile, before turning back to the tentative couple on the verge of leaving.
"Emmett," he said, with an obvious attempt to sounds more rational. "Don't do this. You're my brother and you know how important family is to me, to everyone. We need to stay together."
It was clear from Emmett's expression that all it would take for him to agree to stay would be one word from Rosalie, but that word was not forthcoming. She gripped her husband's hand tighter and looked Edward square in the eyes. Everyone was holding their breath again.
"It's not that simple," she finally managed.
He moved closer to her and locked his eyes onto her.
"Nothing is simple, nothing is easy. But the best things in life do not come easy. The real things that matter, are the things we must fight for. I've never know you to stray from a fight, Rosalie. Will you begin now?"
She averted her eyes and gave Emmett and reassuring wink that, in my opinion, couldn't have been more well timed because he was radiating tension and concern.
"We'll think about it," she said after a moment of gathering herself. "But I really appreciate the gesture," she directed at at Bella with as warm a smile as she could manage. I thought back to how Rosalie despised her some years back; has wanted me to 'accidentally' kill her. Life was nothing if not strange and complex. "Thank you."
I wondered if there was such a thing as vampire aspirin.
'Heaven bend to take my hand,
And lead me through the fire.
Be the long awaited answer,
To a long and painful fight
Truth be told I tried my best,
But somewhere along the way,
I got caught up in all there was to offer.
But the cost was so much more than I could bear...'
It was overdue, I decided, to be having this conversation with Rosalie, especially after everything that had taken place and things that had been said. That she had come to me to ask me for my advice, even after how I had treated her, was testament to her incredible strength of character. We sat side by side on the floor, backs against the wall as we had once done before, whilst waiting to see another terrible outcome.
"So," I said after a moment of contemplative silence. "I owe you an apology."
"You owe me nothing," she said evenly. "How could I ever begin to repay the never-ending kindnesses you have shown me, if indeed we were to start keeping count?"
"I wronged you, Rose. I should have seen your motives for what they were. Selfless and generous, as you always have been, though you hide it away often."
She smiled a little and tilted her head. "You flatter me."
"You have given Edward the greatest gift of his life and you did so through significant struggle against your family. I should have trusted you, Rosalie. I am truly sorry."
I waited for her reply, but instead she paused and shifted her shoulders, as though about to say something completely off track.
"A social worker is concerned about a potential relationship building between poor orphaned adopted' children. She comes around for dinner and you have too cook her something."
I didn't even ask her what she was talking about; it made me smile just to feel that bond back between us again, to know that she was playing our game.
"1937, Forks, Washington," I replied. "I still feel bad about that. How was I supposed to remember what food should taste like?"
She didn't quite laugh, but instead managed a pleasant smile.
"Do you remember her name?"
"Of course," I said after a moment. "Mrs Swan, Charlie's Grandmother."
"Do you...do you believe in fate, Carlisle?" she asked quietly.
"I do," I answered with no hesitation.
"I know it exists. Whether or not it prefers to be cruel or kind is yet to be seen, but I know it to be real. I have felt it, been touched by it."
She dropped her head. "Should I leave?"
I wanted to shuffle closer and wrap my arm around her and make her see that she had nothing to fear from life, that these questions were unnecessary because fate would never dare to hurt one of my children, let alone my favourite most precious daughter. But she would never have believed me and I would have been lying to myself in the process.
"You should do whatever makes you happy, darling," I told her. "You deserve to be happy, you know."
"I don't," she said so quietly I could barely detect it.
"Why not? You believe yourself unworthy of happiness?"
"I am incapable of it," she said, even quieter than before.
"You most certainly are not," I told her in what I hoped was a strong, commanding voice. "You have a family who adore you, a husband who would commit genocide if it amused you and no fears that cannot be allayed with perseverance and strength; qualities you certainly do not lack."
"I want him to be happy, Carlisle. Is he happy?"
"Emmett? Are you serious? His face lights up just to see you enter a room!"
But then I realised suddenly that she did not mean Emmett. Because Emmett was happy. Everyone was happy in fact except Rosalie and Edward, so who else would she be speaking of?
"Oh," I said. "I see."
She turned away, as if ashamed and I hastily went to reassure her.
"No, Rose, I didn't mean it like that. It's just...sometimes I forget how much you care for him and how much in return he cares for you. And yes, he is happy. You have given him that and you should be proud of yourself. I know I am."
"I feel like I should go," she said, looking up a little. "I feel like I owe it to...to everyone, after all the trouble I caused."
"This is your home, Rose. As much as it is anyone's. More than some people's," I added, giving her a gentle nudge and was pleased to see her crack a tiny smile.
"Maybe a fresh start is the best thing for everyone."
"You don't have to run away to achieve that."
"You believe that?"
"I believe that you are a complicated, lovely person, Rosalie Cullen, and that you need your family around you. You need all of us and we need you. Edward included. If you need time, take it. We have nothing but time and it's yours to do with as you please. But don't forget that home is where the people who love you will be waiting for you to return. Always, no matter what."
"But I'm terrible," she said. "I'm horrible and selfish and arrogant."
"You are family, Rose. Whatever it is you think is so terrible, is what makes you a part of this family. You keep us together, keep us on our toes. You are integral, as is Edward. As is what you and Edward bring to the family."
She seemed to grow suddenly uncomfortable as I knew she would, but I pressed on.
"You think you should go because you and Edward have something between you and that threatening his new-found happiness with that is wrong? Rose, you and Edward are the glue of this family. The counterpoints of everything that matters. There is only love between you and though there are many kinds of love, yours is essential to us all. You are essential."
After that we said nothing for a while and I thought she was going to leave soon without having heard what I had been trying to say. But then she spoke.
"Thank you," she said softly and leaned into my shoulder, resting her head gently. "Thank you."
I maintained my silence and hoped I had done a good thing, but it was always so hard to tell with Rosalie. She wouldn't have told me either way and I was content for the time being to selfishly bask in the warmth of having my daughter back.
'...We all begin with good intent,
When love was raw and young.
We believe that we can change ourselves,
The past can be undone.
But we carry on our back the burdens time always reveals.
In the lonely light of morning,
In the wound that would not heal.
It's the bitter taste of losing everything,
I've held so dear...'
It was easy to look back and see what exactly had gone wrong in days past and it was easier still to regret that action and know precisely what could have been done in it's place, done better. Life, it seemed, was a series of events that either failed or succeeded and any failure would imprint deeper than success, always. It was easy indeed to see where I had made mistakes and missed opportunities, lost moments that could have been snatched and stolen. Hindsight remained the bitter-sweet answer to all those little thoughts and obsessions. When one has nothing but time, the past becomes a focal point of attention and often times, the past is made up of little but bad memories, tainted with bitterness and regret.
There are other memories. Memories of bliss and perfection and a happiness so raw and undiluted that it could never really be called happiness. Love so fierce and pure is could never be called love. Passion too fiery to own the mortal name and a devotion too dangerous to ever be brought to light. A connection so complete and binding that it could never be revealed, never really be fully acknowledged lest it devour both counterparts completely. Yet even those memories seemed tinged with the same powerful regret because if only we had known what a mess we would make...
I shook myself and tried to focus on the world in front of me, an undeniably wonderful world, but still it was difficult to find a permanent tether. My mind had always been a deep, dark cavern of unpredictability; a place I could so rarely catalogue and control, at least not without some sense of peace. I hadn't felt peace in many decades.
My daughter grinned at me from where she sat on the floor, playing neatly with her toys and muttering to them as if giving them instructions. She was endlessly fascinating, beautiful and a miracle in all things and yet...my mind still wandered after a few minutes of idle watching. It was treachery in the extreme, I knew, to allow myself to be distracted even after the incredible gift I had been given. But I knew better than to think anything more of myself than what I really was. I had all the things a decent man dreams of. His wife, his daughter and the ability to keep them happy and safe. I knew this and still, my treacherous mind wandered to points of time which remained unsatisfactory to me; times I could have done more, done something different and deep down I knew that if I had the chance, I would go back and alter these things even despite what that implicated.
Carlisle could repeat it until he went blue in the face; I did not deserve them. Not at all. They were beautiful and innocent and pure, looking to me to be all that they were, to guide them through the world with my similar innocence and purity and I was a monster. Always a monster, always a man of treachery and transgression.
"What are you thinking about?" Bella asked dreamily from where she lay on top of my chest, snuggled together on the sofa watching our daughter play.
"You," I said instantly and it was no quite the lie it ought to have been. She burrowed closer and kissed my chest. "Always you, love."
"What was all that about last night?" she asked after a minute of blissful silence.
I paused, caught off-guard by the question. "I don't want them to go, that was all. Why? Do you think I was out of line?"
"Oh no," she rushed to reassure me. "It just seemed like you were really upset by it."
"Emmett and I are very close," I said in my perfectly honest tone of voice. "He's my brother and I would miss him too much if he went away permanently."
She laughed a little. "And Rosalie? Would you miss her too?"
I smiled, but it was completely fake. The question struck me to my core.
"Maybe," I said, trying to make the sounds she wanted to hear, that would reassure her. "Maybe not."
"I think I would miss her," said Bella. "I know it's difficult for her to see us with Nessie, but she's a wonderful Aunt to her and Nessie would miss her too if she went."
"I know," I said and kissed her hair, drawing little circles over the small of her back. We fell into a warm silence for a while, watching our baby play and laugh to herself, but I was drifting again. The other night when she had said those things...did she really mean them? I knew that she had at the time, but sometimes Rosalie was prone to fits of such passion that she could say anything and believe it at the time. I knew deep down that she felt she was doing the right thing by everyone, even Emmett. Their fragile relationship seemed to be righting itself for the first time in a long time and I wanted that for her, I did but more than that...more than anything, I wanted her to stay. I wanted her close forever, even if it was torture, even if she was right and we did have to end...it.
The very thought of it was a bolt of lightning to my chest; white hot and electrifying in it's terror. I had everything any man could want but I was not any man and Rosalie was not something I dreamed of, not something I had wanted...she was as vital to me as blood, as the oxygen we weren't supposed to need, but sometimes couldn't get enough of. She was me, in all things and if she left and if it all came to an end, I couldn't even begin to understand how it would affect me.
I began to feel uncomfortable all of a sudden, like Bella's weight was actually something significant and I had to move.
"Are you OK?" she asked, as I began to move underneath her. "Am I crushing you?"
"Oh yes," I dead-panned with a grin. "You in all your bulky glory are crushing the life out of me. I just want to go see Emmett. Will you be OK with Nessie?"
"Of course," she said simply and lay back down on the sofa.
In truth, I felt like I needed to run somewhere. Somewhere far away, until I hit water and even then it wouldn't be deep enough to block out the thoughts that plagued me. I remembered running into water many years ago, wanting to block her out because even then, in those first strange years of our bond, she had driven me to the water, to the darkness and silence that I craved but that would ultimately hurt me.
There was no place to run to, though. No place far enough on the planet, no place that wouldn't remind me of a place we had been together. A pebbled lake, a beach at night, a rotting lighthouse, a moonlit sky and a lone tree. Every wall looked like the one we had crashed through once, angering Carlisle because he thought we had been fighting. Every key on the piano sounded like her voice, like the songs I had composed for her. Every book smelt like her hands had touched it. The sun was her hair, the blood I drank was her lips and even the moon was the exact shade of pallor her face wore. The gold of my wedding ring was the gold of her eyes. My pain was hers and I knew it; knew she was feeling the same because I could still feel her inside me, inside my mind despite what I did to hide it from her. She was always going to be inside me no matter where she went and no matter what I did.
And I knew it.
There was nowhere to run from it. I couldn't run, couldn't leave my girls behind but Rosalie...she could run. She could take Emmett and run from it and I knew then, with a hundred percent certainty, that she would.
It had been a week since the announcement that Rosalie and Emmett were planning to leave. A week since my heart had begun to shatter apart. A week since I had learned how much hard work it took for Rosalie to perfect that smile she used on everyone else, when inside she was dying.
During that time, I had spoken with Emmett repeatedly; begged him not to leave, given him endless reasons why it was a bad idea to go and nothing but a great idea to stay but he had kindly made it clear that it was going to be Rosalie's decision.
I was cracking up on the inside and if she left, if she went...I could break. I would actually break apart and it wouldn't be a breaking point, it would be me breaking.
There had been no conversations between me and Rosalie; no chance for me to make my case or to ask what it would take for me to get her to stay. She had avoided me and done so cleverly, using other members of the family to ensure that I couldn't fall down to my knees and plead with her then and there to stay, even though it meant torture...she had to stay.
Finally after such a length of unbearable waiting, she gathered us together, Jacob notably missing and the timing of the announcement – while Jacob was visiting his 'pack' – quite obviously intentional. I couldn't have cared less. Her mind was unreadable for some reason and what little glimpses I did gain, only served to further drive that dagger of despair deeper into my chest. I needed to know.
"We've decided," Emmett said, arm slung around her shoulder. "To stay."
The relief was incredible; I actually thought I might be a little dizzy, but it was short lived because the moment everyone began chattering happily and discussing their decision, Rosalie opened her mind to me and spoke to me as she hadn't done in a long time.
'We are staying, Edward, because there is not point in running. There is no point in trying to get away or put distance between the past to ease the ache. We will stay because I do not believe that running away will do anything at all, if anything it will make it worse. I know you have been worrying about the possibility of my leaving, but this is not a joyous decision nor is it going to remotely satisfactory. Edward, this is the last time I shall speak to you like this. This is the last time we shall speak of what was between us. This is the last time we shall think of it without struggling to force it down and away. We are so lucky to have these people around us. So very lucky and one day that luck will run out. It is inevitable. They will find us, catch us, sense something and we will lose everything. Destroy the people we love and who love as in return. Could you break your daughter's heart? Could you rip our family apart, divide loyalties and cause such injury that must be endured forever? I have thought this through a great deal and we must...must be strong. We must do the right thing. The right thing is to end it. This is the end of our story, Edward. The end of what started so many years ago. It ends here and now and we shall start afresh.'
I couldn't move. Couldn't think. Nothing was right. Nothing made sense. The world was collapsing, crumbling away into black and white nothingness and yet I was standing upright, making sounds and faces.
I didn't understand, but deep down I did. Deep down I knew this had been coming, my mind just hadn't allowed me even consider it. This was it. The end of us, the end of what I knew and trusted most, beyond all my senses and faith.
It was the end.
'...Heaven bend to take my hand,
I've nowhere left to turn.
I'm lost to those I thought were friends,
To everyone I know.
Oh they turn their heads, embarrassed,
Pretend that they don't see,
That it's one miss step, one slip, before you know it,
And there doesn't seem a way to be redeemed.'
-Ten Years Later-
Somehow, time passed. It always did, always would and yet I found myself amazed that it could continue to do so after so much occurred in its presence. Life carried on, nothing came to a jarring halt. Days blended into weeks, weeks melted into months and then it had been years. Years since that day when Rosalie had decided to do what neither of us ever believed we could really do. She had always been the strong one, though and she had taken matters into her own hands and ended that perilous, consuming affinity between us in a matter of seconds and harsh words. I could still recall each word with perfect, untouched clarity even now. Ten years on from that day, from that whirlwind month...it was a clear to me as if it has transpired moments ago.
Everything was so different from that day, from that time. Forks was little but a memory now, but a clear one to me at least. The move had been for Bella's benefit more than anyone's as Charlie had passed away after a severe stroke. We knew it was time to go after that; not even able to attend her father's daylight funeral in front of everyone had been extremely trying for Bella and she had wanted to leave as soon as possible. What she went through after that could only have been described as depression, even though vampires were not supposed to feel such things. It was a terrible time and the first real strain upon our marriage that we had encountered. I'd wanted to turn to Rosalie, but those words rang clear and true in my head and I knew for the very first time that there had been a little wisdom in them. So many months of resentment and bitterness against her turned into grudging respect and Bella and I came through our tough times.
Our daughter had ceased to age upon her sixth year on this planet and had the appearance of a seventeen year old girl. This too had been immensely trying, especially for Bella who could not bear to have her daughter taken from her after only six years. But as we had all predicted, she had fallen spectacularly in love with Jacob and considered herself of age the moment she stopped growing. It was difficult to see them together, cuddling and sometimes even kissing and know that she was my seven year old daughter. It was harder for Bella who went through a year of fighting with Jacob constantly. He moved with us wherever we went and left his pack entirely after a few years. Nessie was his world now and he was hers and there was nothing to be done about it except adopt an open mind and closed mouth. It also meant that Nessie would have to forever pass as our sister. This was something Bella hadn't even considered until she started school for the first time at the actual age of two, but the outward age of ten. Nessie wanted desperately to meet other children, to have the experience and school and we had fought many a time over the fact that eventually, Nessie would look exactly the age that we appeared to be. It came as a shock to Bella when she finally accepted it. Her time as a mother was short lived and it was hard to take, watching our baby strut around in heels for the first time, knowing how young she really was. No-one had warned us about this, no-one had told us how hard it was going to be to have a daughter for such a short time and then lose her as she became a sister. I'd wanted to turn to Rosalie, but had not.
We moved frequently an it was starting to become obvious that soon enough we would run out of rainy, dark places to start afresh in, though no-one said anything. Jacob became part of the family officially when he and Nessie returned from what we had thought was a date, to find they had been secretly married. Bella was heartbroken that our baby had only had nine years on Earth before giving herself away to her beloved Jacob, but we all hid it well. Nessie had been so happy and no-one had wanted to spoil that for her. Jacob phased at least once a day so he would stay as young possible for as long as possible and attended school with us when we chose to. The Cullen family of poor, adopted waifs had grown considerably.
Life went on. It changed and shifted and we adjusted as best we could, lest we fall behind with the times. We stayed together, even if it was eventually separate, adjacent houses. Sometimes the strain of pretending was too much and we would flee to deserted places, too cold for humans to lay down civilisation. We would be ourselves and build houses and not worry about the pretences of humanity. The snow, in particular, made quite a lovely change from all the rain.
It was while I was staring at the snows of Anchorage, Alyeska that she came to me.
We had spoken, of course. Ten years could not pass without some communication, private and otherwise, if very sparse and brief conversation. The moment I had tried to speak of anything other than 'ordinary life', as she put it, the conversation would end abruptly. I sensed her pain, of course I did. I knew what she felt and it was probably worse than my own pain, but I tried to shut it out. My agony was enough to deal with and selfish as it was, I knew it was the only way to stay strong.
I was sitting on a shallow bank, gazing at the endless crisp whiteness before me, marvelling at the silence and the freshness of the air, even though we had been there for four months. It was truly beautiful and if I had my way, we would never venture back into society. But Nessie and Jacob were creatures of entertainment. Of movies and theme parks and they would not hear of settling in a place like that for more than six months.
"Hey," she said, sitting down next to me. "Do you mind?"
"No," I said after a moment of contemplation. I had thought I was alone, the rest of the family gone off hunting together while Jacob went into town to get himself some food. I'd assumed Rosalie had gone with them, but apparently not. "Of course not."
She sat with me for a few moments of silence, but it was not like it usually was. There was something in the air, something I knew very well but had learned to ignore and pretend did not exist.
"Do you know what today is?" she asked quietly.
"How could you think I would not?" I said, not knowing why I had to say it quite like that.
"Maybe you had forgotten." She sounded uncertain, a stranger to me almost but she was anything but and the memories that would blast away that unfamiliar persona she was wearing were beginning to bubble up inside me. "I wasn't sure you would remember, I mean...why would you?"
Now she sounded sad and it took all I had not to delve into her mind and find the source of it and soothe it at once. Time and distance, I had discovered, were little but tissue in the way of defence against the emotions she had forbade. It took constant and complete strength of will to keep them back, every second of the day and night.
"Well I haven't forgotten," I repeated somewhat lamely. "I couldn't forget if I tried."
She sighed and stared out at the sea of whiteness. "I remember how much I used to look forward to this day of the year. How much I had to pretend I was dreading it."
"Rosalie," I said hesitantly. It wasn't a warning, it wasn't, but she was delving into things I had worked too hard to lock away.
"How do you think we got away with it for so long?" she asked after yet another bout of silence.
"Maybe everyone knew but didn't want to embarrass us," I said, quite off the cuff hoping to get this on a lighter subject and away from where I felt she was headed.
"I think that sometimes," she said, clearly not taking the path I was offering. "Esme, I am certain, knew something at least."
"It was good we ended it when we did, then," I said and the old pain flared up inside me once more, furious at the betrayal of my self.
There was a massive pause and I sensed what she was going to say before she said it.
I forced myself not to look at her. Not to think of her as my Rosalie. Not to let myself build up some deluded hope, some childish anticipation.
"You said so yourself," I went on, but it was unsteady to my own ears.
"You were a father, a newly married man. I had managed to pull my own marriage back from the brink of collapse," she said quietly. "One of us had to be strong."
"It's always you," I said. "Never me."
She laughed softly. "Me? Edward, if I have ever been strong a day in my life, it's been because of you. If I have ever done a good thing or owned a moment of unselfishness, it has been because of you. You are every good deed, every kind word, every moment of strength and self sacrifice. You are everything that is good inside me. You always have been."
Fatally, I turned to look at her and lost all my breath to the cold winds of Alyeska.
"I had been a selfish, loathsome being all my human life until I met you. You are the reason I have anything good in my life. Anything at all."
"That's not true," I said, a little breathlessly. "I was far worse than you and it is only because of you that I have the family I do now. You have sacrificed yourself for me a hundred times, that I might be happy."
"No-one deserves happiness as much as you, Edward," she said, locking eyes with me for what felt like the first time in ten years. "I have always known there are things I could not give you and it has plagued me for many decades, the twentieth century in particular. But now you have those things. You have all that I can think of that might make you happy."
I couldn't stop myself. "All but you."
"You always have me," she said solemnly. "I am nothing if not yours, wholly and completely."
"Rosalie, what are you saying?"
"I'm saying that I'm sorry for what I said ten years ago. I'm sorry for everything I've put you through. I'm sorry that we had to be dead before we could fall in love, but I would die a thousand times over if it means never losing you. I would endure all the torture hell can muster if it means never having live one day on this Earth without you."
Her words drifted around me, dancing on the icy winds and inside my head and I was struck dumb.
"There is no Earth without you," I said, my head spinning so much I was seeing colours.
She shifted so she was facing me and I was helpless but to mirror her. Face to face was dangerous, but I couldn't remember why. She looked nervous then, on the verge of something she wasn't certain of the outcome.
"Forever is too long to suffer needlessly and I cannot be another on this planet without knowing that you are still mine. Today is the one day of the year I looked forward to the most because I knew we could be together. We could steal that day and hide in the water and finally be together, as we were always meant to be."
She faltered for a moment and looked down, uncertainty draining her strength.
"If this day has lost meaning to you, Edward, tell me so now and I will go from here and be nothing but your sister from now on. In vain I have struggled to fight this but forever is too long to wage such a war."
"Rose," I said, reaching to touch her face and she looked up sharply, gasping as if my touch burned her. Just the contact of her skin was like liquid electricity rushing through my veins and everything I had suppressed for so long came raging back to the surface. "Stop. Just...stop. This is needless. You have nothing to ask. I am yours, always yours and you know it."
The kiss was beyond articulation. Nothing would rightly depict it, nothing ever could. It was as though the ten years hadn't even happened. We were us again and I felt as though I had been living as a ghost for so long that I'd forgotten what it felt like to be alive.
When we parted, it was with a heady breathless excitement that sang in my blood and hers, I could almost hear it. Forever was too long for anything to truly change, to truly break and not heal up again.
We had nothing but time, nothing but love, and an obligation that we had been trying to deny for far too long.
And everyone had breaking points, didn't they?
The songs used were verses from the following:
'To Ramona' – Bob Dylan
'Possession' – Sarah McLachlan
'Fallen' – Sarah McLachlan
The most enormous love and thanks to the following people, without whom this story would most definitely not have had the passion and enthusiasm for it that I managed to maintain for so long. These people are the lifeblood of this story, so thank you all so, so much.
C'est Ma Vie
Dance Elle Dance
Galaxy Defending Lovatic
Galaxy Defending Lovatic
Gitana De Sol
Rosalie Hale Cullen
Your Loyal Reader
Galaxy Defending Lovatic
what do dogs do to wolves
...if I have missed anyone, I am truly sorry but the gist of what I'm trying to get at here is that I love you all, you're amazing people and with your kind, inspirational words you have often given me the energy and enthusiasm to go on with this story and even lent me hope that I might truly be a real author one day. I'm writing The Book now, so if anyone is still interested in me, I'll be updating on my LJ.
I love you all and wish you nothing but the absolute best.
Sugarbucket, or to those who know me,
x x x x x